CTC realized Piano’s design concept by designing and fabricating a cladding system of a structural steel tube framework covered by extensive FRP panels.
For his design of the Resnick Pavilion at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), Renzo Piano revived an idea he first explored with Richard Rogers in their design of the Centre George Pompidou in Paris: the idea of the building as an organic breathing machine. At Pompidou, the architects turned the museum’s mechanical systems into expressive elements, color coding the pipes, ducts, gantries, and escalators and pulling them to the exterior of the structure. At the Resnick Pavilion, Piano located the mechanical rooms and air handling units prominently outside the four corners of the 45,000-square-foot building, applying cladding to the ductwork in a bright red color used in circulation corridors throughout the LACMA campus.
Piano turned to Capastrano Beach, California-based design/build firm CTC (Creative Teknologies Corporation) to realize his design concept. “We took in data from three parties,” said CTC president Eric Adickes. “Piano gave us perspective sketches of how he wanted the air handling units to look, the air conditioning contractor, Acco, gave us Revit drawings, and the general contractor, MATT Construction, gave us 2D Autocad documents of the building and concrete foundation.” From those sources, CTC developed 3D models of a cladding system for the ventilation ducts using CATIA.
The cladding system includes a structural steel framework that bolts to the ductwork, and fiber reinforced plastic (FRP) cladding that attaches to the steel. CTC coordinated with Piano’s office to refine the profiles of the system to achieve the architect’s vision. “Piano wanted flat surfaces with radiuses,” said Adickes. “FRP behaves in ways that you have to compensate for shrinkages and the material loosing its shape. If you’re not careful it can change its shape and not be what you think it’s going to be in the end result.”
In order to ensure the flat-plane look, CTC relied on techniques commonly used in automotive construction, giving the material intentional crowns of as much as an inch or more. This technique applied double curves to all of the panels, which are as large as 10 feet by 15 feet. The intentional crowns produce the illusion of flatness and avoid any unintentional oil canning or puffing in the material, which would give the cladding a cheap appearance. “It’s part of the trade,” said Adickes. “You have to know the material to tactfully build the crowns in so you don’t go to far or too little.”
Once Piano signed off on the models, CTC fed the CATIA data into its CNC routers, which cut the profiles from the FRP panels. CTC also installed the cladding system, attaching the steel structure to the ductwork and the FRP panels to the steel. Once installed, the firm painted the panels on-site.